by Bill Shorten, Shadow Minister for the NDIS, Government Services and Member for Maribyrnong
I didn’t know Shane Warne personally. Sure, I met him briefly a couple of times, but I was not remotely in his star orbit.
News of his sudden death at age 52 rocked me as it has the nation.Shane Warne went too soon, too young
He was just too young to die and his children are too young to lose their dad.
Warnie was a warrior on the cricket pitch, a magical player who also happened to be an all-round good bloke.
He was part of the landscape of Australian life.
When he burst into our collective consciousness with the “ball of the century” in 1993, he saw cricket fans across the world trying to emulate his tricks on cricket pitches, beaches and backyards Aside from his spin bowling genius, he always somehow managed to remain on the nation’s good side, no matter the dramas he was involved in.
Warne participated in a documentary about his life just before he died.
Released this week following his death, “Shane” revealed Warne to be a gentle, straightforward soul who loved his family, cricket, and his mates.
In the doco, Warnie proved to be a simple bloke at heart, saying “I smoked, I drank, I bowled a bit . . . no regrets”.
On the cricket pitch, however, he was a mastermind.
Former teammates idolised his talent and valued his friendship.
Famous rockstars, like Ed Sheeran, Chris Martin, Mick Jagger and Elton John, wanted to be him.
And his escapades sold as many tabloid newspapers as they made gossip columnists clutch their pearls.
He also helped a lot of people, too. Stories about Warnie’s good deeds were folklore in Australia and extended across the world to the UK and India, where he was also beloved.
He wasn’t showy with his charity. He was gracious and humble, helping children with disability achieve their goals and assisting many people impacted by the Black Saturday and Black Summer bushfires, among many others.
There’s little doubt he would have also given a hand to Australians battling the ferocious floods along the east coast of Australia or popped in to lift the spirits of the cricket-loving kids.
Perhaps most importantly though, Shane Warne was a dad.
Australia is gutted for his three children and his family when news of his death swept the nation on Saturday.
Shane’s cause of death appears to be a heart attack.
Natural causes, as they say.
Warnie had apparently been suffering chest pains and sweating in the week before his death. He was a lifelong smoker and he had also not too long ago had COVID-19, which saw him have a stint on a respirator.
Despite all this, he was a fit-looking rooster and not a single person in Australia, or his international fan diaspora, would have thought his number was up. While his death at the age of 52 is a tragedy, it is also a wake-up call to middle-aged men across Australia.
I am two years older than Warnie and his death has prompted me to think seriously about my own heart health.
I’m sure there are also thousands of Australian women, not just men, thinking about their own health in the wake of Warne’s shock passing.
For smokers especially, medical experts have used their platforms this past week to hammer home the message that smoking kills.
Aside from nights guarding the central kitchen at Puckapunyal in the Army Reserves where I smoked the occasional dart to try to stay warm, I’ve never been a smoker myself, but I know there are certainly some things I can do to help my heart.
I’ve also been personally impacted by the dangers of smoking. I believe both my parents died from strokes triggered by lifelong smoking habits.
Heart disease is the biggest killer of middle-aged people in Australia. According to the Heart Foundation, heart disease kills one Australian every 12 minutes and causes one in four deaths.
It’s not just smoking that is the culprit our genes, lifestyle and other factors all play a part.
Men are being encouraged to get a health check-up and go to the doctor if they have had chest pains, shortness of breath or other signs of a faulty ticker.
According to the Australian Heart Foundation, the most common heart attack warning signs are: Chest discomfort or pain (angina). This can feel like uncomfortable pressure, aching, numbness, squeezing, fullness or pain in your chest.
This discomfort can spread to your arms, neck, jaw or back.
Dizziness, light-headedness, feeling faint or feeling anxious Nausea, indigestion, vomiting Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing with or without chest discomfort Sweating or a cold sweat.
I will be going to see my doctor in the coming weeks to make sure everything is in check.
If Warnie’s legacy is going to be that he saved some lives by alerting us all to our heart health, then I say that’s a pretty damn fine gift to his fellow Australians.
But beyond that, Warnie was a man of the people, a larrikin who will be remembered for his cheek as much as for his flipper.
Your passing is unfair. But you will loom as large in death as you did in life.
While his death at the age of 52 is a tragedy, it is also a wake-up call to middle-aged men across Australia.
This opinion piece on the passing of Shane Warne by Bill Shorten was first published in The West Australian on Wednesday, 9 March 2022.